Our desires and goals motivate us towards self-fulfillment and increase our enjoyment of life. But not just that - recognizing goals and working on them are important in coaching and psychotherapy. Since emotional conditioning and limitations are primarily reflected through unconscious self-sabotage, or the person feels incapable to realize important goals, working on desires and goals is often the fastest way to recognize the feelings and beliefs that sabotage us most. Especially by focusing on life goals such as quality intimate partnership, self-esteem, fulfilling job, we can recognize the emotional blocks that influence our lives most. Their resolution brings many benefits not only in desired context, but in many other areas of life too.
Yet sometimes clients just don't know what they want! Sometimes they might recognize this as a critical issue that requires coaching. Lack of goals doesn't just cause routine, stagnant lives, it also indicates deep emotional blocks. It's very unlikely that such people can be truly and deeply content with their lives, and they feel it too. Even if we were able to be completely satisfied with our lives and our emotional patterns, I believe that we can still grow and develop emotionally.
Lack of goals comes in several varieties:
1. Client actually do have desires, but they don't dare to admit them to themselves, or they don't believe them possible to achieve.
2. The client is in conflict amongst several choices.
3. True inability to feel or recognize personal desires and goals.
The first two cases are usually not difficult to recognize. The first requires working on limiting beliefs and emotions, perhaps including guilt or shame for having desires. (Under condition that the wishes are healthy and don't include or imply hurting other people.) Perhaps such a person was raised to take too much responsibility for other people and to put themselves last. Some people feel incapable or unworthy, and sometimes we believe that it is not possible to fulfill a particular desire. Sometimes this is true - we certainly cannot teach fleas to sing (with dogs and cats it might still be possible, though). Still, even a seemingly unreachable goal can give us something to aspire to, something to dream of and motivate us (even if you only end up with fleas who start screaming at the sight of you).
The second case, inner conflict, might also be caused by limiting beliefs that stop people moving towards any of desired choices. But if the wishes seem conflicting and incompatible, it's highly likely that this is caused by a deep identity conflict. In short, this is a conflict amongst false personalities created on the foundation of toxic beliefs. Such a pattern is often a result of a conflict amongst parents when the client was a child - especially if the parents tried to make the child choose a side.
Such a situation creates limiting beliefs and false, compensatory personality parts in the child, which make it seem impossible to achieve two different desires, even if, realistically, they are not mutually exclusive (love and freedom, for example). For more information, read the articles Complex Conflict and Quantum Leap in Consciousness.
The last possibility, true inability to express a goal, is not so common. Starting with a presumption that for a normal person it's almost impossible not to have some wishes at least - wishes show us what is interesting and fulfilling to us, what takes us to the next step in our personal growth - I'd say that the most important cause of this issue is rejection and suppression of the true personality, which is replaced with toxic beliefs and habits. That is true in the first two cases, too, but usually not to such an extent.
Perhaps such people experienced smaller number of traumas, but heavy enough for them to almost completely give up on themselves; or a longer period of milder, but consistent neglect and suppressing of the children's personality, usually accompanied by "brain washing" and preventing the children to choose their own directions in life. Such people can spend all of their lives robotically following their parents' beliefs or unfulfilled desires, without ever really considering what they truly want.
The solution of this issue requires resolving limiting beliefs and rediscovering and reintegrating the suppressed parts of personality. But this is not all. You will need to spend some time gently, but consistently exploring - rediscovering yourself: your preferences, desires, interests towards particular topics or activities... very likely you will need to invest time in developing new habits and skills that you didn't have a chance to learn before. But later is better than never.
Don't expect yourself to know at once what will you want to do with the rest of your life. It's enough to learn to follow your inner guidance from day to day, from smaller desires towards life goals. While learning to live in this way, you develop an awareness that one day, perhaps when you least expect it, might reveal a true purpose of your life. Perhaps, by following your smaller wishes, you will spend some time collecting knowledge and developing skills that will help you later in life to create your life work - the skills that perhaps you wouldn't have patience to practice, if you knew in advance what your life mission would be.
"Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate." - C.G. Jung
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